Shake, rattle and roll

There was an earthquake on the East Coast yesterday that apparently caused some minor damage but no loss of life. So, in terms of natural disasters, this was a pretty easy one to cope with.

Still, my first reaction when I heard about it was, “WTF? An earthquake on the East Coast? Aren’t those supposed to happen here, on the West Coast?”

I know, I know, earthquakes can, and do, happen anywhere, even on the East Coast. But here in the Vancouver area, the very idea of earthquakes is in your face. A lot. Every time there is a major earthquake in the world, our media here falls all over itself speculating on when it will happen here and are we prepared. We accept the fact that it’s not a question of if, but when. I’ve been hearing all that my whole life, and even so, I am not totally prepared with an earthquake kit and evacuation plan. Me and thousands of other Vancouverites.

In fact, I can only recall two real earthquakes that I have experienced here in my lifetime. I’m sure there are more, but they were likely way too tiny to be noticed by someone as unobservant as I am. Or maybe I myself was too tiny to notice them.

Anyway, the first earthquake I remember was at about 2 am, one summer when I was 18 or 19. I had just come in from my job as a server in a local restaurant. My bedroom was in the basement, and I had come in through the basement door and had just entered my bedroom. There was a low rumbly sound, and I staggered a bit. The mirror on my dresser was clunking around at the same time, and I realized that my window curtains were swaying quite a lot. I thought, “Is this an earthquake?” Then it stopped. I stood there, confused. My dad opened the door at the top of the basement stairs and called down to me, to see if I was okay. “Yeah. Was that an earthquake?” I called back. My dad affirmed that it was, I said “Oh”, we said good night. He shut the door and I got ready for bed then jumped in and fell asleep immediately.

It appears to have not been a very traumatic event in my life.

The second one was about ten years ago, in late April I think, and I was at work. I was in the Grade 7 classroom, talking to the kids about our upcoming big trip to Québec. The classroom teacher had a director’s chair at the front of the room, and that’s where I was sitting as I was explaining a few things that the kids needed to know. Suddenly, the stuff that was on the shelves underneath the windows and the windows themselves started to rattle. A book fell off a shelf at the back of the room. And I, perched in the director’s chair, swayed back and forth alarmingly. It all stopped as abruptly as it had begun. We were all silent for a split second. One of the kids asked, “Was that an earthquake?” Brilliant me responded, “I don’t think so.” The classroom teacher interjected, “Oh, I think it was.” Then the kids erupted with excitement and chatter about surviving a real earthquake. After a few minutes of that, we went back to our discussion about Québec.

So maybe I’m not the person you want with you in case the earth starts shaking … because apparently, I can’t really tell whether or not it IS an earthquake. But then again, apparently they don’t bother me a whole lot, so maybe my role is to be the calm voice in the centre of the chaos.

Nah – that can’t be it. I’m just oblivious, is all.

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9 responses to “Shake, rattle and roll

  1. I think I was still jet lagged. or maybe a wee dram or two… look it up, dec 26 1979.

  2. We have had a few minor earthquakes here. I lost a goldfish once – he fell out of the aquarium with a great wave that sloshed over the sides and I didn’t think to count them. I also slept right through an earthquake – in Scotland the day after Christmas. I woke up and the bed had skittered across the floor and I wondered how I ended up sleeping under the window when I was sure the bed was on the other side. Granted, it was a very narrow room, still. Apparently a few ornaments were broken.

    • VioletSky – Hmm – you slept right through an earthquake that was strong enough to have moved the bed across the room. The day after Christmas. Had you been drinking, maybe just a wee dram perhaps??

  3. Earthquakes even happen here, although I seriously hope we don’t get one. All the houses are built of brick. They aren’t as flexible as the ones in California.

    • Nora – The school I teach in is built of brick (it’s a pretty old building, though it’s been renovated), so if ever there’s a serious earthquake when school is in session, there will be much damage and many injuries, I think, and perhaps even some deaths. *shiver* Yeah, here’s hoping “the big one” happens on a weekend!

  4. You and me both about being oblivious. And, as far as the newspapers go it’s one of those obsessions by editors to obsess about ‘localizing’ any big story. So if there’s a major trembler in Chad or Katmandu, the editor will exhort some hapless reporter to ‘find a local angle’.

    I had one experience similar to yours. I was in university and had just come home from working graveyard shift in a mill. I hit the sack. For some reason, unbeknownst to me at the time, I fell out of bed. I thought it was just that I was exhausted and had fallen out of bed. Turned out later I was to find it was a fairly significant quake had done the damage.

    • mrwriteon – Are you sure it wasn’t because you’d been drinking on the job? My brother worked graveyard at one of those mills down by the river once upon a time too, and the stories he would tell! (Maybe you were at the same mill?)

      • No, since drinking on the job was a firing offence. That didn’t mean, however, since it was graveyard, that I was always completely sober when I arrived at work. The mill I worked at on the banks of the Fraser in Richmond (when the thing was still called Lulu Island) was called Beaty Laminated and it was a plywood mill. Interesting about your brother.

  5. Actually we’ve had a few small ones here in Quebec. Apparently we’re smack on quite a big fault line.

    A matter of when not if. That’s probably the case for pretty much everyone.